Release Date: Apr 1, 2014
Record label: Carpark Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Noise-Rock
Maybe it’s our laziness, or maybe there is something there, but Cloud Nothings’ peers are generally considered so because of their sonic connection to punk, and to grunge, to keeping things “loose” rather than “tight,” to slack, to beer and weed, to voice-cracking screams, to shaggy hair, to being young. That may seem like a lot, but for anyone who remembers grunge or punk or weed or youth, there used to be a time where playing loud and fast with guitars wasn’t all that weird. So, despite the enthusiasm in which the music is presented, or the fact that Wavves and Cloud Nothings are talking collaboration, Here and Nowhere Else is a different breed than Celebration Rock or most of Wavves’ output.
By the time you read this review, summer will be over.That's not really true, of course. It's early July. We're barely into the best season the oft—cruel calendar has to offer, but most know all too well that just as soon as the days are longest and the beers the coldest it's damn near time to get sweaters out and circle football Sundays on the calendar.How a propos, then, that a band making music so perfectly fitting for a season has dropped an album that serves as a perfect parallel.
There was a good while when I thought that Steve Albini’s affiliation with Cloud Nothings would end up being more of a curse than a blessing. The legendary punk legend/producer/loud mouth was a central point of discussion regarding the band and their still glorious 2012 release Attack on Memory, which was engineered by Albini, and it seemed that a lion’s share of the credit for Cloud Nothing’s transformation from Dylan Baldi’s lo-fi bedroom-rock pet project to a full band indie rock powerhouse was given to Albini just for appearing in the credits. It seemed unfortunate that, despite Baldi’s claims that Albini basically sat at his soundboard playing Scrabble on his phone during the recording sessions, Attack on Memory would be known to most more as an “Albini” record rather than a Cloud Nothings record, thus putting their newly built legacy in his hands as well.
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Up until recently, Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings could do whatever they wanted. From the band’s meager beginnings of Dylan Baldi self-recording as a one-man operation in a basement, to 2012’s astonishing Steve Albini-produced Attack On Memory, the band always had enough space for its brand of batshit pop-punk to flash its fangs without much regard for hype or expectation. But now, with Attack On Memory making the band a breakthrough act, the anticipation for the next release has been significantly heightened, and the band now faces its truest test yet: the much-anticipated follow-up.
Cloud Nothings' 2012 album Attack on Memory aspired to be not only the band's first great album, but one that would eradicate their introductory phase as Dylan Baldi’s solo, no-fi pop-punk project. It succeeded wildly on the first count, the second one not so much: on singles “Stay Useless” and “Fall In”, Steve Albini scoured the reverb and fuzz just to further expose Baldi's facility with bittersweet melody. Baldi gives it another go on Here and Nowhere Else, enlisting John Congleton to wipe away any remnant of “Hey Cool Kid” and present Cloud Nothings as they’ve never been and probably never will be: a grisly, caustic punk trio knocking out harrowing and powerful singalongs in dingy basements that can barely contain the sound.
Cloud Nothings is the kind of insipid name that makes you wish that all bands were labelled appropriately. I hadn’t given them much time in the past, precisely for the same reason that I’d subconsciously dismissed, say, Future Islands until recently; they came complete with an uninventive moniker that didn’t fill me with optimism about the sharpness of their creative talents. I also suspect that I might have confused them with crashingly dull Australian rockers Cloud Control.
After issuing one of 2012’s most under-appreciated indie-rock record, the pressure is on Cleveland’s neo-grungers to deliver big. And they do. Cloud Nothings, with teeth clenched tight and feedback flowing aplenty, rock a blue streak without letting a single moment go by hook-free. Frontman Dylan Baldi wasn’t lying when he said he dropped his “fuck everything” attitude.
To say that Cloud Nothings have lost some of their snarl on Here and Nowhere Else, the fourth album from Dylan Baldi and company, might seem like an insult. This is a band founded on a certain measure of aggressive energy, which memorably exploded from restrained pop-punk power to thrashing might on their last effort, the Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory. Here, on the group's second release as a full band, without rock's master of darkness behind the boards, that intensity fades a bit, but the effect is tantamount to the lifting of a haze, granting greater clarity to the strong musicianship that undergirds these still-powerful songs.
When Cloud Nothings released second long player Attack On Memory at the outset of 2012 it felt like a coming of age. Having initially been grouped in with the lo-fi indie pop scene that spawned the likes of Wavves and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Attack On Memory represented a reinvention of sorts. Engineered by Big Black and Shellac luminary Steve Albini, it heralded a metamorphosis into harsher, aggressive waters.
Considering that Cloud Nothings sprang from Dylan Baldi's gloriously unruly teenage angst, it could be damning with faint praise to say that Here and Nowhere Else is his most considered set of songs yet. However, the album's maturity reveals itself in the attitude behind the music more than in the music itself. Baldi and company temper the tantrums of Attack on Memory just enough to tell a tale of personal and musical growth.
On Cloud Nothings’ breakthrough record, 2012’s Attack on Memory, lead singer/screamer Dylan Baldi ripped through a series of anti-mantras. The album was a rebirth of sorts, Cloud Nothings shifting from bedroom project to full-on aggressive rock band, and Baldi’s voice was the most surprising new strength in the band’s sound, though backed by bassist TJ Duke and drummer Jayson Gerycz the power was hitting from all angles on that album. And they used it to deliver terse but wide-open frustration.
Cloud Nothings’ ‘Attack On Memory’ was one of 2012’s finest; Dylan Baldi’s angsty scuzz resonated so brilliantly with Steve Albini’s distinctive production (or lack of it) style, the thrashing guitars as controlled (or not) as they needed to be, Baldi’s angsty screams, yelps and sighs flowing in and out of focus in a way that seemed somehow beyond natural. It’s odd then, that after just a minute of follow-up ‘Here and Nowhere Else’, it has already paled in comparison. This is more pop, more punk, more chorus-filled; more… song-y.
When Dylan Baldi's Cloud Nothings released it in 2012, Attack on Memory was a bit of a revelation. In the span of a single year, Baldi had replaced the clean-cut, strummy pop-punk ditties of their 2011 self-titled debut with a towering, distorted pile of Steve Albini-recorded angst whose break with Baldi's past was only emphasized by its title. Response to Attack on Memory was unequivocally positive, and Baldi "liked the way the last record sounded and the band I was playing with," so the band stuck to the formula for the follow-up: Here and Nowhere Else is another heavy, catchy-as-hell Cloud Nothings record.
On Cloud Nothings' last LP, Attack On Memory, Dylan Baldi's lo-fi approach was beefed up by producer Steve Albini, who took the band down the kind of interesting avenues that led to songs like nine-minute live favourite Wasted Days. But the John Congleton-produced Here and Nowhere Else is brazenly one-paced: it's three-minute, heads-down, melodic garage rock all the way, until the penultimate song, Pattern Walks, breaks the mould by clocking in at a marathon seven-and-a-half minutes. Still, a lack of diversity doesn't mean the album is inherently flawed – like FC Barcelona refusing to revert to a plan B even when tiki-taka goes awry, there's a charm to Baldi's steadfast faith in garage-rock brevity.
The endorsement of Steve Albini is always going to attract a certain kind of listener to your record. However, if that cranky old dog happens to produce your record… sheesh, well that must mean you’re a cut above the hundreds of other bands that send solicited (and unsolicited) records for him to listen to in the often vain hope he’ll agree to produce their next product. By attaching his name to Cloud Nothings’ Attack On Memory, a spotlight was immediately shone on an album that might not have hit the same heights without him.
Cleveland's Cloud Nothings return, following up the Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory with a John Congleton-produced Here and Nowhere Else. Which is to say another recordist with a penchant for room mics and capturing sheer loudness—appropriate with this batch of tunes. It's markedly more frantic and reckless than the deliberate, measured anger and restraint of its predecessor.
Cleveland indie rocker Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings has been releasing records since 2009, when he was 18, spending what would have been his college years learning the ways of catchy, low-fi guitar punishment. Now he's 22, and the third proper Cloud Nothings LP feels a little like graduation day. Baldi's songs still bash and seethe, but with more flashy time-signature shifts, open space and studio trickiness.
“A simple life can be so strange”, laments Dylan Baldi over the corkscrewing guitars on ‘Now Hear In’, the opening track on pop-punk scrappers Cloud Nothings’ fourth album, ‘Here And Nowhere Else’. Quite what Baldi still knows about a simple life is unclear: in just four years the 22-year-old from Cleveland has released three albums dripped in fuzz and venom, built Cloud Nothings from a solo lo-fi bedroom project into a grungy, venomous four-person assault on the senses and toured the globe almost nonstop, racking up over 400 shows since 2010. The Dylan Baldi who wrote 2009’s low-key ‘Turning On’ and 2011’s Vampire Weekend-with-the-dials-cranked breakthrough ‘Cloud Nothings’ in his parents’ basement is presumably long gone by now, along with his simple life.
Cloud Nothings — Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark)With 2012’s Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings made a significant step forward, moving away from the bright but unsubstantial pleasures of frontman Dylan Baldi’s early home-taping experiments into an aggressive, hard-edged, full-band sound that, thematically, dove straight for the abyss. Now, two years later, Baldi and his band have stirred the garage-pop tunefulness back into this heavier mix, like a baker folding meringue into a batter, adding lightness and ingratiating hooks into the mix without sacrificing its strong flavor. Baldi has always had an ear for melody; even “Wasted Days,” the epically downbeat centerpiece of Attack on Memory (key line: “I thought I would be more than this”) had an anthemic lift embedded under the fug.
Imagine a scenario where Nirvana had stayed on Sub Pop, building a passionate but manageable following, able to bloom under the radar. Imagine grunge never happened; Kurt never met Courtney. Yeah, it's a stretch, especially as the man's final days are being lived out in minute detail at the moment, but humour me. Twenty years on, perhaps Kurt would be a cult hero.
The upside to self-doubt and angst is that a perfect combination of the two can create great art. Oftentimes, the success that bands find when they load their albums with the youthful passion that only exists in a fleeting twenty-something moment is lost when the fire burns out on subsequent releases. Attack On Memory, considered by many to be Cloud Nothings’ lo-fi noise-pop opus, was a crowning achievement of the state of inner rage that develops out of stagnation and the perception of falling short of parental expectations.
opinion by BRENDAN FRANK It probably isn’t a stretch to say that Attack on Memory owed at least a portion of its success to Dylan Baldi’s choice to take Cloud Nothings from a one-man show to a full-on band. Granted, it had to be done at some point. As fun and peppy as his first two albums were, you can only go so far as a basement pop-punk project before stagnation sinks in.
When Cloud Nothings recorded its third album, the group had a lot riding on its sound. For one, it was the first time Dylan Baldi made his one-man project truly feel like a full band, and expectations were only heightened when Steve Albini was enlisted to produce in his notoriously hands-off way. The result was Attack On Memory, the band’s biggest and best record to date.